Jesus proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom that would change everything; and yet, the world goes on, remains infested with evil, death and suffering. How can we make sense of this?
Key question: how does the church relate to the Kingdom?
Roman Catholic view: The Church is the kingdom?Christendom (politicized church; kingdom will spread gradually until church attains world dominance)
Dispensational view: Kingdom postponed; church is parenthesis; Jewish kingdom will come suddenly at the end of this present age.
Keep that key question in your mind; we will come back to it.
The New Testament epistles
Written for many purposes, most often to address some problem in a particular church.
All NT epistles address those who live in this age but belong to the age to come. They help us see the world in a new way by seeing who we are in Christ.
Example: Ephesians 2:11-22
(1) Remember who you were (vv. 11-12), key word is alienated; why do we consider it such a tragedy
when children are orphaned or when spouses divorce? Note the alienation here:
1. separated from Christ
2. alienated from the commonwealth of Israel
3. strangers to the covenants of promise
4. with no hope
5. without God in the world (atheoi)
William Hendriksen: “Christless, stateless, friendless, hopeless, and Godless.”
We were made for community: with God and others, but sin, turning us inward, has isolated us from
both. Chesterton’s madman: so turned in on himself that everything is about him. He is alienated.
(2) Behold what Christ has done (vv. 13-18).
He has brought us near (13). How?
1. He has reconciled Jews and Gentiles to each other (vv. 14-15)
*The dividing wall of the temple that separated the court of the Gentiles; see Acts 21:27-36
2. He has reconciled Jews and Gentiles to God (vv. 16-18).
He has accomplished this by his blood (vv. 13, 14) and by his proclamation (v. 17). What the Son accomplished, the Spirit applies, and thus salvation has a Trinitarian shape (v. 18).
(3) Know who you are now because of Christ (vv. 19-22).
We are no longer strangers and aliens, but
1. Fellow citizens with the saints (19) (citizens of the kingdom)
2. Members of the household of God (19)
*We are no longer orphans, without a father (see 1:5)
3. A temple (20-22); God’s dwelling place (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
Rev. 21:3: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” God’s place—the church.
Each image demonstrates community with God and others: citizenship, family, temple
How does the church relate to the kingdom? We are now “citizens,” but we remain in this present evil age where sin abounds.
1. The church is not identical to the kingdom because the church has no place here. We are exiles (1 Pet. 1:1). The Jerusalem above is our mother (Gal. 4:26).
2. But the kingdom is not wholly future; we are citizens of it now (Eph. 2:19). King Jesus reigns now, and we must live according to the norms of the kingdom.
3. The church is an outpost of the kingdom, a colony, a sign of what is to come.
What does this mean for the way we should live as the church?